INDEPENDENT Electoral Commission (IEC) Commissioner, Makase Nyapisi, says the elections body is determined to deliver a credible election despite concerns over the state of the voter’s roll and the budget for the plebiscite, among other concerns.
Dr Nyapisi spoke to the Sunday Express after the publication of shocking revelations in the Lesotho Times, by IEC chairman, Justice Mahapela Lehohla, on the country’s preparedness for elections. The revelations were contained in a series of letters between Justice Lehohla, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and Law and Constitutional Affairs Minister Haae Phoofolo.
In the correspondence, Justice Lehohla, who was appointed IEC chairman in 2013, condemns Lesotho’s voters roll which he says needs “expert intervention” to clean up. He also highlights the lack of funding among the main impediments hampering the delivery of a credible poll, adding that the elections, slated for 28 February 2015 would be “at best highly imperfect or at worst as good as non-existent.”
Justice Lehohla also pointed to the theft of the IEC’s computers, containing critical information, which he said would also inhibit the IEC’s ability to deliver a credible election.However, Dr Nyapisi has said the letters were only intended to persuade Minister Phoofolo to speedily deliver on the funding required to ensure the verification of the voter’s roll by external auditors.
“What the chairman (Justice Lehohla) was doing was asking the minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs to help us with an extra budget for the verification of the voter’s roll so that we have local or regional experts,” said Dr Nyapisi.“This was in an effort to ensure that stakeholders would see that we have done our best to ensure the voter’s roll is in a good state to deliver a credible election.”According to Dr Nyapisi, even if the experts Justice Lehohla sought in the letters were not engaged, that would not mean the voter’s roll is worthless.
“(The bringing of the experts) is merely to address the concerns that the politicians and stakeholders raised about the uncleanness of the voter’s roll,” he said. “The wording (of the letters) is that of a lawyer who is determined to plead with the minister to show what the consequences would be and appeal to the minister.”
He said the need to engage experts who would audit the voter’s roll and assist in its assessment is meant for verification and to give the IEC and general population “comfort”.
“Even if we say we are confident ourselves, we would need a second opinion. We also have the UNDP funding an international expert who will be coming here by next week to scrutinise the voter’s roll.
“However, we were also looking at all the possible options and thought it prudent to engage companies with the (requisite) expertise and asked them to submit their proposals,” said Dr Nyapisi.
He said following the announcement of the 28 February elections date, the IEC had so far removed 35 065 deceased voters and 1 200 multiple registrations.
The commission had also resolved 1 000 incidents of multiple registrations whereby two people had similar names and surnames.
Asked about the effects of the missing 21 computers, which Justice Lehohla had said contained critical information which would also inhibit the IEC’s ability to deliver a credible election, Dr Nyapisi said their disappearance would not affect the voter’s roll.
“Investigations are ongoing and it is now a police case to find out where those computers are, but, because the data is encrypted no one can use it,” he said.“We have talked to experts about this, and it is not going to affect the voter’s roll in any way.
“Of course people will say it is going to be tempered with blah blah blah… When you ask them how it can be tempered with, they are unable to say how.”Dr Nyapisi said since the correspondence, Advocate Phoofolo had promised to assist the commission with securing funds for the engagement of experts who would verify the voter’s roll. He said the commission had so far received M160 million of the M200 million approved by government for the elections budget.
He, however, cast aspersions on the source of Advocate Phoofolo’s last letter, describing it as “suspicious” as the writer who signed the letter on behalf of the minister “did not even care to date the letter and he or she addresses the IEC chairman as a commissioner”.
“The minister had been briefed by the IEC, together with his Principal Secretary, hence I say he could not have written such a letter,” said Dr Nyapisi.“The letter is surely written by someone who seems to be driving his or her own agenda.
The writer asks what the nature of our concerns are and when the concerns came to light.
“However, the chairman had answered that the experts are meant to investigate any irregularities with the voter’s roll and that’s what we are engaging the experts for.”
On the question Advocate Phoofolo raised in the letter about whether they had notified Southern African Development Community Facilitator, Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr Nyapisi queried what the South African deputy president would do with the requests forwarded to him, saying the issues raised should be resolved locally by the relevant authorities.“When we seek a simple budget to be availed to us, we are referred to Ramaphosa! Why are people seeking to absolve themselves of their responsibilities?” he said.
The IEC, Dr Nyapisi said, does not have the prerogative to table any request before parliament but it has to go through the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs.
“We are raising the questions with you (Advocate Phoofolo) as the minister.
And you as a minister, if you find it necessary to raise those issues with him, (Mr Ramaphosa) go raise them with him, not us, we only deal with the minister and not Ramaphosa,” he said.
He said the letter written by the minister to the IEC indicates it was penned by someone who wants to depict the IEC as if it is not ready to deliver an election. “We did say we are ready to deliver the elections. In actual fact there is a statutory three months requirement to prepare for elections.
This letter is only but a smokescreen by people who want to delay the elections as they don’t have intentions to go to the elections,” said Dr Nyapisi.“It seems the letter is penned by people with intentions to trick people into thinking the IEC is not ready to hold elections. This letter raises a lot of absolutely irresponsible questions.
“These people want to absolve themselves and smear the IEC. We have a budget and the processes have been ongoing and the His Majesty (King Letsie III) has set the tone.“Who are we to undermine His Majesty after his speech from the throne?
It would be irresponsible for us not to comply and deliver when we only have 49 days left. This is meant to confuse the electorate, however Basotho should know we are ready to deliver the elections.”